MIDTOWN — Five kayakers were injured, two of them critically, when a ferry plowed into their group of 11 on the Hudson River on Tuesday afternoon, police said.
The NY Waterway ferry, Jersey City, was pulling out of Pier 79 near 12th Avenue and 39th Street minutes before 6 p.m. when glare blinded him and he hit a group led by a Manhattan Kayak staffer, an NYPD spokeswoman said Wednesday morning.
Riders on other ferries noticed the kayaks surrounding the Jersey City, but thought they were there to rescue someone who'd fallen in.
"We thought the kayakers were trying to help them out," ferry commuter Chris Metter, 28, said Wednesday morning.
Metter only realized what had happened when he noticed some of the kayaks had capsized.
"When we got into the dock, three fire trucks came, two ambulances and then all the guys with the wet suits," he added.
The NYPD's harbor unit pulled all of the kayakers from the river, officials said.
Three people were treated at Bellevue Hospital while two more were taken to St. Luke's, officials said. Two of the injured, whose ages range from 18 to 53, were listed in critical condition, Coast Guard officials said.
One of the kayakers, a worker with Manhattan Kayak, was severely injured, NYPD officials said in a press conference Tuesday night.
"His bone was exposed. He had lost a lot of blood and he was lapsing in and out of consciousness," said the head of the NYPD's Harbor Unit David Driscoll.
But his condition was improving almost immediately after the incident, according to a Manhattan Kayak statement posted to Facebook Tuesday night.
"Our guide was also seriously injured, and we are extremely relieved to hear that he is in good spirits," the statement reads.
Manhattan Kayak goes on to thank the NYPD, United States Coast Guard and Hudson River Park officials who helped in the rescue.
"This is the FIRST major incident we have ever had, and we are very thankful that there were no fatalities," the statement reads.
Investigators believe that the captain of the ferry, the Jersey City, was blinded by sun so he couldn't see the group of kayakers, an NYPD spokeswoman said.
"Sometimes, the sun is in people's eyes. Reflection off the water, it can block your vision," said another ferry commuter, Drew, who declined to give his last name Wednesday morning.
There were no immediate arrests and the NYPD said its investigation is ongoing.
NY Waterway officials aren't releasing any further information about the incident, according to Gladwyn Lopez, a spokesman for the company.
"We are cooperating fully with the U.S. Coast Guard in this investigation," he added.